(My wrap-up and personal applicaiton of 2 Corinthians from the School of Biblical Studies.)
What is it about negative input that stings so badly? I can hear a thousand compliments, be told a million great things, but when that one negative person comes to me and says, “You’re nothing. Get a life,” or something like that, it’s that one comment that will stick with me for days. It will keep me up at night. It will make my gut churn, and it will cause me to rethink my entire priority list.
I think this is what Paul is talking about when he says “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me.”
A messenger of Satan to harass me.
That’s what Satan does. He harasses people. He’s a jerk like that. He takes all those uplifting compliments we’ve heard from good people we trust, and with one slight off-the-cuff comment, he wipes them all away.
As hard as Paul tried, he just couldn’t shake the memory of his past … because Satan wouldn’t let him. He begged God to take away his guilt (2 Cor. 12:8), but Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Something in Jesus knew that if he would have taken away Paul’s guilt that Paul simply would not be Paul. Paul was made strong in his weakness. He was humbled – humiliated at times, I’m sure, and that was the ONLY way he could serve Jesus the way he did.
That is how I get through it. For years, time after time after time, Jesus took away my guilt. And what did I do? I kept right on sinning. I kept right on disappointing him. Until finally, he said, “No more.” That’s when I got it, and that’s how I still get it. It’s my shame and guilt that make me whole. It’s remembering the person I used to be that makes me who I am today. And who reminds me of that? Satan’s messenger, of course.
Ironically, this is just another way Jesus defeats Satan. Satan thinks he will bring down the sinner by reminding us of our flaws, but in actuality, those little reminders make us stronger because we lean on Jesus even more to comfort us. Even in our weakness, Satan is defeated, because in our weakness, God makes us strong.